ELLSWORTH — Hancock County basketball teams have held their own against opponents from around the state in recent years. Judging by one team’s recent performances on the AAU circuit, that trend could be set to continue in the not-too-distant future.
On Sunday, the Black Bear North 3rd/4th-grade girls’ team won the New England AAU-sanctioned Maine state championship at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham. It was the second major tournament win of the month for the team, which had claimed the Zero Gravity state title with an undefeated tournament run just three weeks earlier.
Black Bear North draws players from the Hancock County, Belfast, Bangor and Midcoast areas, but it’s the local contingent that provides the bulk of the squad. Five of the Black Bear North 3rd/4th-grade team’s 11 players over the weekend hailed from Hancock County.
Players hailing from Hancock County at the month’s final AAU tournament were Lamoine Consolidated School’s Calleigh Trenholm and Sydney Mason, Hancock Grammar School’s Kaylee Bagley, Cave Hill School’s Olivia Jordan and Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School’s Lizzie Boles.
Just as they did en route to winning Zero Gravity championship, the team finished off an unbeaten tournament run to take the title and complete the month of April without a loss.
“They’re best friends on and off the court, and they’re always there to help and support each other,” said Becky Mason, Sydney’s mother. “It’s been very rewarding to see them succeed and grow throughout the past month or so. Their love for each other and for the sport of basketball has united them in a truly special way.”
The win qualified the team for the national championships July 9-12 in Orlando, Fla. If the team attends, it will be the trip of a lifetime for the players and their families.
“We all want to go because it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Sydney Mason said. “It would be cool to play against new teams.”
In one contest, the team was trailing by as many as 12 points — a significant deficit in youth basketball, in which games are shorter and scores are lower. Not only did the team come back to win, but it did so against one of the state’s toughest opponents in Blue Wave Basketball of Portland.
“It was exciting because we were able to come back after we were losing,” Sydney Mason said. “We worked hard and found a way to win.”
The 3rd/4th-grade squad was far from the only Black Bear North team to excel at the weekend tournament. At the 5th/6th-grade level, the club finished second on the boys’ side and third on the girls’ side.
Combine that with the triumphs Down East Family YMCA and Mount Desert Island teams had at the Sheriff’s Cup and Great Harbor Shootout, and one thing is clear: Basketball in Hancock County has the talent and the resources it needs to be successful for years to come.
“It’s just amazing how many of the local teams are winning, and you can’t take that for granted,” Becky Mason said. “It’s great to see the future of basketball around here in such great shape.”